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Cooking Tips

For the Best Smoothies, the Order of Ingredients Matters

Learn to layer for better texture.
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Published Aug. 24, 2023.

Smoothies are touted as fast, one-step drinks. But if you’ve ever run into a hunk of spinach after sacrificing yet another spatula to stir and push down ingredients, you know that making a smoothie isn’t as easy as tossing everything into a blender and turning it on.

So how do you get evenly blended smoothies every time? Know the optimal order of ingredients to create a vortex in your blender. 

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How to Create a Blender Vortex 

In our book The Complete Guide to Healthy Drinks, each smoothie recipe is designed with a singular goal: create an effective vortex in the blender.

A vortex is the mini tornado the blades in a blender create as they turn. The suction created from the cavity in the center of the blender cup draws food to the bottom of the jar to be chopped and spun upward again. This circulates ingredients until they reach the precise texture you want. 

The better the vortex, the quicker and more evenly the ingredients process. It works for any blender. The key is adding the ingredients in the right order.

A blender will make a smoothie work no matter what order you put them in, but if you put the ingredients in a particular order . . . you’ll get a better final product.
Test Cook Joe Gitter

The Best Ingredient Order for a Smoothie

Follow this order when making your next smoothie and you’ll never stir again.

1. First, layer in the lightest (or only) solids. Solids give the blade something to grip and get it turning, so layer them in first. If your smoothie has a lot of solids, start with the lighter ingredients such as leafy greens and herbs.

2. Then add your next batch of solids. If your smoothie has a lot of solids like ice and a combination of frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables, add these more substantial solids in a second layer. They’ll help maintain the vortex.

Why should solids go in before liquids? Executive Food Editor Dan Zuccarello, who edited Healthy Drinks, says, “In general you want to add solids before liquids so the blades have something to grip and begin breaking down. In cases where the smoothie contains a lot of leafy greens we tend to add the greens first, then ice, then additional solids like cut up fruits and vegetables.”

3. Add liquids last. Liquid thins the mixture and further weighs down ingredients so they can turn easier. So add the milk for your Cherry-Almond Smoothie after you’ve added your other ingredients.

More Smoothie Tips

Don’t depend on your blender to deal with large ingredients. Test Cook Hannah Fenton, who developed the Zucchiña Colada Smoothie, stresses the importance of cutting fresh ingredients such as bananas and zucchini into smaller pieces for more manageable blending. Otherwise they may not break down.

• Don’t blend too long. Our standard blending time is 1 minute. Smoothies with highly fibrous veggies or lots of large pieces might require more time, but Test Cook Joe Gitter warns about blending for too long.

“Blend for as little time as possible so you don’t end up heating the smoothie from the spinning blades’ friction,” says Joe. (Why use frozen pineapple for a Tropical Fruit Smoothie if you’ll have to drink it warm?) 

In addition to affecting the temperature of your smoothie, overblending can also cause bubbly aeration.

Add water as needed. Smoothie thickness varies based on the ingredients. Water thins the smoothie without impacting the overall flavor when used in moderation.

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